CFRONTIERS - Coastal Frontiers: Water, Power, and the Boundaries of South Asia

CFRONTIERS - Coastal Frontiers: Water, Power, and the Boundaries of South Asia

Coastal Frontiers' will involve the Principal Investigator, Dr Sunil Amrith, and a post-doctoral research assistant, in a study of the Bay of Bengal’s coastal rim from the late-nineteenth century to the present. This project will illuminate the entangled political and ecological history of the coastal arc stretching from India’s southern tip to the edge of the Malay Peninsula. It will combine macro-level perspectives on environmental change, contingent histories of transformations in political sovereignty, and local histories of coastal peoples. It seeks to examine how people have actually inhabited the coastal borderlands of Asia, and the contrasting ways these worlds appear through the eyes of states, or in the minds of coastal ecologists. It will focus on key coastal sites at the frontiers of ecological change, at the frontiers between empires and nations, at the frontiers between terrestrial and maritime law. The project will examine the deeper history of environmental change and political conflict in a region that is now particularly vulnerable to climate change, and at the fault-lines of strategic conflict between India and China.

The project will build on the Principal Investigator’s recent work at the frontiers of scholarship in Asian history, through his studies of the links between South and Southeast Asia’s histories of migration and oceanic connection. It is time, now, to root this re-conceptualization of Asia’s regional frontiers in a closer study of environmental change, but to do so in a way that does not lose sight of the experiences and consciousness of individuals. This represents a new departure in scholarship, combining environmental history with the history of transnational flows, bridging insights from the humanities and ecological science. This ambitious project seeks new ways for historians to engage with questions of planetary change, without losing the fine-grained detail and hard archival research that has characterised our discipline.

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